RestraintThe Royal College of Midwives has welcomed the reinstatement on the UK Border Agency’s old policy of forbidding the use of force against children or pregnant women.

The announcement follows a high court challenge of Friday 22nd February, which resulted in the UK Border Agency reinstating the policy on its website.

Commenting on the u-turn, the RCM’s director for midwifery, Louise Silverton, said: “The Royal College of Midwives welcomes this decision by the UK Borders Agency. The RCM believe that the UKBA should not have rescinded its previous policy guidance. We are pleased that they have now reinstated the policy.  We believe that pregnant women in any environment within the criminal justice system must no longer be restrained or handcuffed, except in a situation where she poses a risk to herself or her unborn child or if her life is clearly in danger.

“Restraining a pregnant woman is harmful, and because pregnant women have a broad range of vulnerabilities and restraining them can result in miscarriage, premature labour, stillbirth or trigger a serious illness.

“The Royal College of Midwives believes the restraint of pregnant women and children is an outmoded and antiquated practice that shames us all. Midwives must serve all mothers and babies regardless of their immigration status.”

The climb-down came after a legal challenge by four asylum seekers – three children and a pregnant woman – who argued that the government had no policy in place allowing the use of force against women or children held in detention.

Maggie Atkinson, the Children's commissioner for England, said: “The use of force against a child by any agent of the state must always be subject to clear and appropriate limitations. Such limitations are prescribed in every institutional setting with the exception of immigration detention.

“In the absence of transparent policy and guidance, the risk to children's wellbeing cannot be overstated.”